1) Put the memoir on temporary hold.
At a recent pre-xmas lunch with VOW (Village of Women) Writers, when I started sharing what I'd been up to with my writing – specifically re poetry – several people said enthusiastically, 'And the book!'
For a minute or two I wondered blankly, 'What book?' then remembered – oh yes, the memoir. The story of my magical-mystical life. Wow, in the space of a week or two I had forgotten all about it! How could that be? And after I'd finally got a real start on this long-promised volume, following several previous abortive attempts. Such a mental blank didn't seem to argue any great dedication to this project!
Then I realised, my writing partner in this latest attempt, bestie Helen-in-Melbourne, had gone quiet on her own memoir too. The emails with her chapters, which always excited me and inspired new ones of mine, had stopped arriving. I checked in with her, to find she's exhausted after a particularly trying year – in fact many trying years as carer for a disabled (now adult) child, and with serious health challenges of her own.
I realised I myself have a lot on my plate just now. I have some health issues too – chronic, not incapacitating, but I need to take the time to consolidate the health regime which keeps them manageable.
We agreed to let go of memoir writing during the holiday period and pick it up again next year. It may not be the kind of writing we turn to spontaneously, but it still feels like something worth doing, indeed needing to be done.
All this made me realise:
Partners and Committed Listeners Can Be Vital
When taking on a new, long-term project, having a partner is a very good idea! It keeps you up to the mark. In this case, it took me a little while to notice my partner had gone AWOL, cos I had too – but when I was reminded, I touched base with her and found out what she and I both needed at this point in order to continue with our commitment. Left to ourselves without that communication, it might have been far too easy to drift into prolonged inaction. But because we did set up this particular writing partnership, sooner or later one of us would have thought, 'Hey, what happened?' and addressed it with the other.
I also had, almost accidentally, created a panel of committed listeners – people who take on the job of supporting you in a project, noticing when something is getting in the way of it, and encouraging you when you need a boost. Of course, any writers' group one belongs to has this among other functions, even in just the friendliest way: 'How are you going with the book?'. When I decided a little while ago to share my memoir project with VOWWriters to get their feedback on excerpts, I automatically made them my committed listeners – which meant the lapse in the memoir got noticed and acted on very quickly.
2) Continue the poetry project
(ordering and submitting)
I did something similar, more intentionally, when I decided to put my poetry backlist (or backlog!) in order and start submitting things to likely publications. I announced the intention on facebook and invited my readers to take on a witnessing role, to keep me honest. A number enthusiastically volunteered. (I have the best friends!) That is enough to have me report on my progress on fb from time to time – which means I have to make the progress first. Upon which my witnesses / committed listeners rally to cheer me on!
I enjoy mucking around with poetry, so I'll keep on with this project over the holiday period.
3) Take a vacation from (most of) the poetry groups and communities
The online community of writers who blog, Poets and Storytellers United, which I coordinate along with the wonderful Magaly Guerrero and Rommy Driks, will take a couple of weeks off over the Christmas break.
My offline writing groups are vacationing too. VOWWriters aforementioned, which meets fortnightly during school term and which I officially mentor, will also have time off. We started our holidays with that pre-xmas luncheon, and are not officially due back until Jan 28th when schools here resume after what is, for Aussies, the long summer holiday – but we enjoy our meetings, so those who can will start back earlier, on the 14th.
The LitChix, a small group of mutually-supportive writers who meet on equal terms (no leader, and all teachers of each other as occasion arises) is also taking a break. We meet monthly, so this just means we miss only two meetings, in December and January.
(Other online groups I belong to, i.e. various haiku, senryu and tanka groups on fb, don't require regular commitment, so I'll no doubt go on posting and commenting there as and when I feel like it.)
4) Take on a new kind of writing / journalling
I've just re-read Writing Down Your Soul: How to Activate and Listen to the Extraordinary Voice Within, by Janet Conner. (San Francisco, Conari Press, 2008.) When I first bought it, I flipped through and set it aside, meaning to take it up seriously 'as soon as I had time'. OMG! That was back in 2015! In March, to be precise.
I think it's not the time I've found, so much as the need – and even more, the willingness. (The will!)
This time I read it through attentively over several days. I found a suitable notebook. I decided what kind of pen to use, and the time and place to set aside for my daily 15 minutes of talking to God – or The Universe, as I have long called that overall Source of guidance, protection and wisdom.
[I do also say 'God' when praying, and in recent times have often addressed that same energy as 'Goddess'; also have interacted with specific angels, deities and guides. But for so long 'The Universe' was Who/What I called on in times of need, and also whom I committed to serve when I was called upon – as in my usual response if asked who I worked for: 'I work for the Universe, and the pay is good.' Now that I have white hair and wrinkles, I'm rarely asked that question, but the answer remains true.]
This kind of writing is different in various ways from other kinds of journalling. I'm excited to start, and also have some trepidation. The promise is that it will change your life. The catch is that if you ask God for advice, you're really bound to follow it when received. Which might be uncomfortable!
Why would I want to do this now, at this stage of my long life, when I have known much happiness and fulfilment, and have arrived at a place of great contentment, with as much security as anyone can reasonably expect (perhaps even a little bit more than most)?
Ah but, there are those health issues. There is my tendency to self-indulgence, often satisfying but sometimes regrettable. There are some areas of stuckness and procrastination. At 82 there is concern about my future, both in this life and beyond, and particularly during the transition. There is my care for those I must eventually leave behind.
Besides, it's time I had a new adventure!
(Image by Jess Baily on Unsplash – where it's in colour.)